1

Jack Phillips: Cafe Nights In New York

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Jack Phillips: Cafe Nights In New York New York is, and always has been, a study in contrasts when it comes to the jazz it presents. The Big Apple has a reputation as the place to be for those looking to hear, explore and partake in all that's modern in this music, but it also plays home to certain venues that serve as the last vestiges of old world style. Chief among the rooms that traffic in the charm and class associated with cabaret performers, Cole Porter songs and cocktails is the Cafe Carlyle, and few who enter this hallowed space are immune to its charm.

Vocalist/composer Jack Phillips fell under its sway long ago and found inspiration in what he heard there. Phillips, who typically works in pop and rock situations, made it a point to go to the Carlyle to check out the late Bobby Short's performances and, in more recent times, the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band, and these listening experiences proved to be transformative. Short's work was the impetus behind Phillips' decision to take the plunge into cabaret territory and Davis serves as his arranger, producer, guitar-and-banjo wielding accompanist, occasional songwriting partner and style guide.

While most rock-associated artists looking to cross into cabaret-style territory do so with a safety net of songs from the like of Porter, Gershwin, and Rodgers and Hart in hand, Phillips took the riskier approach and wrote all of the music for Cafe Nights In New York; in some places, this gambit pays off. The absorbing and refined "Someone" and the NOLA-glazed "The Old Grey Hat" are chief among his successes. Elsewhere, the material can be a bit contrived, lyrically speaking ("Magic"), or somewhat forgettable ("Sometimes It Happens") but, on the whole, Phillips proves to be a strong writer capable of conjuring thoughts of a time long gone and a city worth savoring.

Stylistic authenticity is chief among the strong suits of this music and much credit should go to Davis and the other players on board. Multi-instrumental virtuoso Scott Robinson is superb, whether delivering breathtaking tenor saxophone soloing ("Someone") or obbligato on flute or cornet, Conal Fowkes dresses up the music with all manner of sounds, ranging from pianistic class to vibraphone work to string sweetening, and Dan Levinson's clarinet brightens up the atmosphere on "The Old Grey Hat."

Phillips plays his part of old-school cabaret charmer to a T. While he isn't endowed with a voice like Short's and he occasionally pushes a bit too hard, he knows his strengths and limitations well and finds firm footing during the majority of this date. His first foray into the swanky fineries of upper crust musical living features plenty to enjoy.


Track Listing: Take Them To Manhattan; Someone; The Old Grey Hat; Sometimes It Happens; Table For Two; Let's Drink To Us; I've Got Sophistication Too; I Remember Paris And You; 125th Street In Harlem; Magic.

Personnel: Jack Phillips: vocals; Conal Fowkes: piano, vibraphone, bass trombone, accordion, strings; Klaus Suonsaari: drums; Pat O'Leary: bass; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, cornet, flute; Eddy Davis: banjo, acoustic guitar, wire brush; Dan Levinson: clarinet; Jim Czak: shaker.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Magnolia Group Records


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "December Songs" CD/LP/Track Review December Songs
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "Harmonicus Rex" CD/LP/Track Review Harmonicus Rex
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 21, 2016
Read "Crowded Solitudes" CD/LP/Track Review Crowded Solitudes
by John Sharpe
Published: July 24, 2016
Read "Free for One" CD/LP/Track Review Free for One
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "All My Treasures" CD/LP/Track Review All My Treasures
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: May 20, 2016
Read "Honey For The Biscuit" CD/LP/Track Review Honey For The Biscuit
by James Nadal
Published: August 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!